[EXCERPT] COLDBROOK by Tim Lebbon
Out this week from Titan Books is Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon and SF Signal brings you an exciting excerpt!
Here’s what the book is about:
Coldbrook is a secret laboratory located deep in Appalachian Mountains. Its scientists had achieved the impossible: a gateway to a new world. Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were about to unleash.
With their breakthrough comes disease and now it is out and ravaging the human population. The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance: an uninfected person amongst the billions dead.
In the chaos of destruction there is only one person that can save the human race.
But will they find her in time?
Following is an excerpt from Coldbrook…
This is the last of my Penderyn whisky.” Jonah nursed the bottle in his hands, turning it this way and that so that light caught the fluid inside. He swore that in sunlight it was the color of good Welsh soil, but he rarely saw the sun.
“Been saving it for a special occasion?”
“I have,” Jonah said. “And in the chaos of the last three days I’ve been waiting to put it to use.” He looked at the man sitting across from him. Vic Pearson was not someone with whom Jonah would have made friends if circumstance had not thrown them together. He still didn’t think they could really call each other friends-when one of them eventually moved on, he doubted that they’d remain in touch-but they were certainly respectful colleagues.
Vic smiled, tapping his fingers on the table.?
Jonah turned the bottle again and thought of home.
“So…?” Vic said, and Jonah heard the familiar impatience in his tone. Jonah was used to existing far more inside his own mind than outside, and sometimes, so his sweet departed wife used to tell him, it was as though he disappeared altogether. It was said that Isaac Newton would often swing his legs out of bed and then instantly be overcome by a flood of waking thoughts, and that he’d often still be there an hour later staring at the wall, thinking. Jonah had always understood Newton’s distractions.
“So,” Jonah said, “perhaps our first drink should be to Bill Coldbrook.”
Vic leaned forward in his chair, folding his arms on the polished oak desk and looking down. When he glanced up again he was still smiling. But now tears were coursing down his cheeks.
“Vic?” It shocked Jonah. He’d never seen Vic as the crying type.
“Three days since breach. It feels like three years. We’re in the middle of forging history. But when times are quieter, I wonder what the hell have we done down here… what have we done?” He was still smiling through the tears, because he knew well enough that their names would soon be known. Theirs, and Bill Coldbrook’s, may he rest in peace. But here were Vic’s damn doubts again, and Jonah was buggered if he was going to let them spoil the moment.
He pulled the cork and breathed in the whisky fumes. Heavenly. Closing his eyes he tried again to think of home, but Wales was far away in distance and memory. Twenty-seven years since he’d left. Perhaps now he could make that journey again.
“We’ve made history,” Jonah said. “We’ve changed the world.”
“Don’t you mean “worlds”?” Vic’s tears had ceased, and he absent-mindedly wiped at his face, unconcerned that Jonah should see him like this. That made Jonah respect him a little bit more. They both knew that what they’d achieved was much larger than either of them, and that history was being made with every breath they took, every thought they had.
I’ll write a book about this one day, Vic had said after another failed attempt several years before, and Jonah had smiled coolly and asked if that was all he wanted.
Now he knew that within a couple of years what they’d done would fill whole libraries.
They’d drunk together many times before, discussing the day’s work and speculating about the future. They’d been accepting of each other’s differences, and over time had developed a mutual respect. But Vic’s lack of passion-his doubts and concerns, which Jonah had always taken as a lack of confidence-had always formed a barrier.
Vic picked up one tumbler and raised it. Jonah clinked glasses with him.
“A toast,” Jonah said, “to Bill Coldbrook. I wish he could have been here to see this.”
“If he was, you wouldn’t be.”
Jonah ignored the quip and drank, closing his eyes and savoring the smooth burn of the whisky through his mouth and down his throat. It never failed to warm the depths of him. His eyelid twitched and he thought of the terrible nightmares, the thing he’d dreamed staring down into his face. He opened his eyes again and Vic was staring at him. He hadn’t touched his drink.
“Don’t you realize what we’ve done, Jonah?”
“Of course. What we’ve been trying to do for two decades- form a route from this Earth to another. We’ve tapped the multiverse.” He laughed softly. “Vic, what’s happened here might echo across reality. Somewhere so many miles away there’s not enough room in our universe to write down the distance, there’s another you, toasting our success with another me, and the other you is pleased and happy and confident that-”
“Don’t give me that bullshit!” Vic snapped. And Jonah could see that he was genuinely scared. He has family up there, he thought, and for a second he tried to put himself in the other man’s place. Yes, with the enormity of what they’d done he could understand the worry, the tension.
But there were safeguards.?
“Remember Stephen Hawking’s visit?” Jonah asked.
“How could I not?”?
“He and Bill admired each other greatly, and he gave us his blessing. Said we were the sharpest part of the cutting edge.”
“You say that as if you were proud.”
Jonah laughed softly. Vic above everyone knew that Jonah’s pride was a complex thing, untouched by fame or its shadow and more concerned with personal achievement.
“He said we were the true explorers, and gave that plaque as Stephen Hawking’s stamp of approval. We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something special.”
“Just because we pretend to understand doesn’t mean we’re special. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be scared.”
“You should be pleased,” Jonah said, sounding more petulant than he’d intended. But damn it, down here in the facility they weren’t walking in the footsteps of giants. They were making the footsteps.
“Don’t tell me,” Vic said, sounding tired rather than bitter. “It’s something I’ll be able to tell my grandkids.”
“If you’re lucky enough to have them,” Jonah said, “then yes, of course. You can tell them you were part of the most startling, audacious experiment in history. At Fermilab and CERN they’re knocking protons together to look for the Higgs boson particle and mini black holes. Theorists discuss Planck energies, and waste time arguing about Copernican and anthropic principles with those possessing narrow vision or blind faith. But here… here, we’ve made much of theoretical physics redundant. Here, we have proof.”
Vic remained silent, turning his glass this way and that, catching the light and perhaps trying to see what Jonah saw in it.
“What were you doing here, Vic?” Jonah asked. “If what we’ve done makes you like this, why were you even here?”
“I wanted it as much as everyone else did,” Vic said. “But the reality is… more massive than I ever imagined. The impact of what we’ve done here…” He trailed off, still staring into his glass.
“Will be felt for ever,” Jonah said.
“We’ve changed the whole fucking world,” Vic said softly. Then he put the glass down without drinking, stood, and leaned in close to Jonah as if to look inside him.
“Vic?” Jonah asked, for the first time a little unsettled.
And before leaving Vic Pearson spoke the stark truth. “Things can never be the same again.”
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